From classy to trashy: Why fan favorite shows flop in the end

Some TV shows are famous for their endings, and others are infamous. Image courtesy of Mad Meaning.


The CW’s fan-belovedSupernatural.”  HBO’s acclaimed  Game of Thrones.” The CW’s polarizing Riverdale”. 

As fans of these shows would agree, they have one thing in common: they missed the mark with their story over time. TV lovers have criticized these shows for their dwindling quality as seasons progressed. Whether it be from possible seasonal rot or issues with the creative team behind-the-scenes, fans have taken note that their favorite tv shows just are not holding up after a while.

In 2020, The 15-season-long run of “Supernatural” ended with a staggering 327 episodes under its belt. Fan reactions were bitter to lukewarm, as most fans were not satisfied with the show’s long-awaited ending. 

Gabi Mathus, a criminology major and “Supernatural” fan, was one of many fans upset by the show’s ending. She said the story went south when the writers of the show misunderstood the characters. 

“I think by the finale everything was just so similar to where the characters had started off that it felt disingenuous to where the characters were at that point in the story,” Mathus said. “[The writers] just kind of reduced them down to what the original vision of those characters were, and it didn’t really fit that anymore.” 

Fans of “Star Trek: Voyager” were also displeased with its ending in 2001. Many fans have equated the show’s ending result to the fault of poor writing and being anticlimactic. Sav Schultz, a junior speech-language hearing sciences major and a “Star Trek” superfan, said the show’s bad ending is due to conflict in the writer’s room. 

“I know from some behind-the-scenes stuff, the writer’s room was kind of conflicting, and so they had to slap together a plot,” Schultz said. “[The ending] is anticlimactic. The entire show had been building up to a specific moment, then [the writers] stumbled with the [final] moment plot-wise.”

TV fans have speculated whether or not these controversial endings are due to some TV shows having too many seasons, suffering from seasonal rot. According to TVTropes, seasonal rot is “an installment in any long running series that is widely held to be of notably poorer quality than the other installments.”  Just look at the dramatic drop of Rotten Tomato audience scores for “Game of Thrones” from season one’s 96% to the final season’s 30%. With such a drastic change in numbers, fans looked to explore behind-the-scenes explanations. 

Shows like “Community” had similar declining results during their run. Most fans chalk the drop in quality up to drama in the writers room, but with 110 episodes, fans wonder if the show’s length played into its gradual decline. 

The same can not be said for shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and its nine seasons, where fans stayed loyal until the end; though, some fans were displeased with its finale. After 19 seasons and counting, fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” still stick around. Looking at success stories like these, it could be possible that a show’s longevity may have nothing to do with its decline. On the other hand, there are shows like “Riverdale.”  

The CW’s off-kilter yet captivating “Riverdale” is another show that has fans scratching their heads at the rapid decline of the show’s writing over its six season run. “Riverdale,” originally a high school classic murder mystery based on the characters from Archie Comics, has now devolved into something unrecognizable to fans. A Twitter thread recounts and highlights the show’s most insane moments. Here are just a few: Archie goes to juvie, the seven year time skip and the war, and Jughead gets abducted by aliens and, subsequently, enters a new dimension. Also, do not forget the musical episodes, featuring songs from Broadway’s “Heathers: The Musical,” “Next to Normal” and more. These are just a few of the show’s wildest moments and does not even scratch the surface of what bonkers storylines the show has to offer. 

“Riverdale” follows in suit with shows like “Supernatural” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” where the plot disagrees with fans’ requests over time. Emma Howard, an arts administration major who was a disappointed fan of the “Gilmore Girls” finale in 2015, shared why she thinks these shows decline over time. 

“I love [‘Supernatural’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’], but up to a point because they just keep going on and the writing gets so crazy,” Howard said. “You look at the shows as a whole, and you kind of go, ‘What is this?’ I think there’s a beauty to ending something at a certain point and not dragging it on.” 

Howard went on to mention that one of her favorite shows “Ted Lasso” is ending after just three seasons. Originally, Howard was disappointed by this but has found light in the series coming to an end. 

“I’m disappointed because I would always love to have more, but I don’t want it to become a show that keeps making more seasons,” Howard said. “I think its nice that the directors or writers have a set vision of ‘this is what the project looks like from beginning to end, and we’re gonna do our best for it and present it in that way.’”

A similar issue regarding TV shows and their extensive seasonal runs is the question of whether or not the creation of reboots and spinoffs add to this problem. Recently, with shows like HBO Max’s “Velma” and its controversy, audiences are questioning if reboots and spin-off shows add to the magic of the original. 

“I generally think [spin-offs and reboots] fail,” Howard said. “It’s hard to really capture the magic of a show from when it was initially made because shows are sort of held in time. They don’t age. That’s why people love reruns.”

On the other hand, with a new “Supernatural” spin-off series titled “The Winchesters,” Mathus thinks the franchise can be revived from a disappointing original finale. 

“[The ‘Supernatural’ spin-off] is apparently being very well received by people who hated the finale,” Mathus said. “I do think it’s going to reignite some sort of ‘Supernatural’ renaissance. I just don’t know if it’ll be something that’s for me.”

With an overall fan consensus considered, it seems that some shows find it harder to stick the landing than others. Whether it be drama behind the scenes or a show’s overall length, fans seem to like it better when a show sticks to its roots and brings it all together in the end. TV shows, like any story, are meant to end. To make that ending appeasing seems to be a more difficult act to follow. 


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